It was right around now two years ago that I was sitting in my doctor’s office and told that I have Celiac Disease. (It also happens to be Celiac Awareness Month. Cool, huh?) I’m lucky that my doctor also has Celiac. It means he knows how this all works, and isn’t going to prescribe me something glutenous. That day, he ran and got his laptop and gave me a PowerPoint presentation about Celiac Disease — the same one he gives to other medical professionals. He told me that I had to go gluten-free — that day — or I would continue to destroy the villi in my intestines, I would keep my body from absorbing nutrients, and I would probably get lymphoma. Sounds fun, right? The one regret that I have about that appointment is that I talked my doctor out of ordering me an endoscopy. If I had known then how not-a-big-deal endoscopies are, I would have gone for it.**
I can’t really believe that it’s been two years. Two years! Two years ago, I only knew one person (besides my doctor) who had Celiac Disease. She works down the hall from me, and was a HUGE help getting me going in the right direction. She gave me a little pocket-size ingredients book from (I think?) the Canadian Celiac Association that details which bizarre ingredients have gluten in them and which don’t. Two years later, I know that book is in my house somewhere, but I don’t know where right now. I almost never need it anymore.
Even still, I felt lonely. I felt like no-one had this weird disease. I felt ostracized. Going grocery shopping was hard, and took forEVER, since I wasn’t used to checking every. freaking. label. I almost cried in the middle of Whole Foods the first time I went. I bought Shauna James Ahern’s Gluten-Free Girl book, and read her website until my eyes blurred over. Of anything, that probably helped me the most to not feel quite so alone.
My husband, The Franchise, immediately stepped up to the plate and went (mostly) gluten-free with me. This has meant more to me than anything else. He has never questioned that it’s real. He has never complained about the additional cost of eating gluten-free, or about the costs of all my medical tests and procedures and appointments. He’s willing to try everything I make at least once, and sometimes he even likes my gluten-free version better! (Sometimes, though, like with hummus, he thinks it’s gross and can’t understand why anyone else likes it. That’s okay.) When he does eat gluten, he makes sure it’s very well contained and doesn’t contaminate my stuff. When those days pop up where I just feel like food controls my life and that I’m never going to feel better, he’s there to give me a hug, hold me, tell me that he loves me and that it will be okay. I’m very lucky to have married him.
My mom, who’s a nurse, was with me and The Franchise at my diagnosis. She immediately sprang into action and had the rest of my family tested for Celiac, since it’s hereditary. In July of that year, my sister was diagnosed after inconclusive bloodwork and a positive biopsy. My parents have gluten sensitivity, but everyone else is clear. My mom dove into finding out everything she could about gluten-free cooking and baking. She’s the one who found Life Tastes Good Again, and at her recommendation, I bought it a few months later.
Life Tastes Good Again taught me that I can still make “the standard” bready things, gluten-free, and have them taste good. I can’t tell you what that did for my ability to feel “normal.”
I discovered the Udi’s line of products, which have also been a lifesaver. Bread for sandwiches that tastes like…bread? Check. Bagels that are lovely when toasted and smothered with cream cheese (Tofutti brand for me)? Check. Blueberry muffins to die for that are also dairy and soy free? Check. I also hear their pizza crust is great, but haven’t tried it.
In the past two years, I have learned:
* How to read labels like lightening (and how to recognize gluten in its various hidings)
* Fresh foods are delicious!
* It’s a lot easier to avoid gluten if I’m eating fresh, whole foods instead of processed ones.
* I still have bad days when I feel like I’m never going to feel better, but that’s ok.
* So many people have Celiac or gluten intolerance. You might be one of them. If your stomach is always upset, that is not normal. E-mail me at cinderellaspear(at)gmail(dot)com. I can help.
* I love to cook! Seriously…I do. I love playing with flavors and textures and colors, and I’m almost to the point where I can make it look pretty, too.
* I don’t love to bake yet, but I’ll get there…someday.
* Life Tastes Good Again bread recipe + KitchenAid mixer = easiest bread ever, with none of my allergens.
* In addition to the Celiac, I have been diagnosed with gastroparesis, and allergies to beef, chicken, eggs, milk, bananas, carrots, and corn.
* When I don’t eat gluten or allergies and I do my best to eat the right foods in the right amounts for gastroparesis, I feel better.
* Ginger tea is my friend.
* Tofutti brand is my friend.
* I love food!
* People generally want to understand, and just one conversation can raise awareness, which is great. I have people all the time tell me that they saw some gluten-free product somewhere and thought of me. It makes me happy.
* I still do feel self-conscious about this, but it’s getting better. Most of the time. I think.
* I have the most supportive family in the world. The summer that I was diagnosed, we went up to our family farm in Idaho, and my “aunt” Tammy bought me a HUGE bag of certified gluten-free oats. That was so amazing, because I love oatmeal. Love it. Always have. Always will. Those bags? Not cheap. She did that for me. My grandpa Armando let us come stay with him last year and was brave enough to let me cook for him. So sweet. So sweet of him to let us stay with him. My in-laws are very supportive — especially my mother-in-law. They’re also brave enough to let me cook for them on occasion, and are always sending me articles and things they find about Celiac.
* There is a wonderful community of people with food issues that I would never have had the chance to interact with had these issues not come up. Thank you for your time and efforts and blogs. We are not alone in this, and it’s wonderful to know you. I hope I can meet you in person.
* Whole Foods? Awesome. I could spend sooooo much money there. It’s good for practicing self-restraint as well as all the awesomeness.
* Good Earth? Also awesome. I get bulk flours and other various & sundry items there.
All in all, I feel very blessed. I’m grateful for the opportunity to find a passion for life and for cooking and food that I didn’t know was there. I’m blessed by the people in my life who support me and who are an example to me. I’m grateful for God, who knows who and what I need, even when I don’t, and who leads me to them.
Here’s to a good and interesting two years, and here’s to many more!
**A year after that appointment when I still wasn’t feeling better, my gastroenterologist ordered an endoscopy without me going back to gluten first, and “didn’t see any villi damage,” so according to him, I have latent Celiac. Latent Celiac refers to having a positive blood test but a negative biopsy. Um…hello? I was gluten-free for a year. That’s usually enough time for the gut to heal. So, whatever. I’m not going back to gluten because that would be miserable, and I’m not going to cheat and then have my “latent” Celiac “turn on” and have to get an endoscopy every year to make sure I’m not doing damage. I’ll just keep going on my merry little gluten-free way.